The Link Between Processed Foods and Leaky Gut
Studies reveal modern food processing techniques and additives cause food to become more allergenic and create or contribute to intestinal permeability
(“leaky gut”) and generalized inflammation involving histamine, mast cells and more. In particular, the browning of foods (or caramelized) can cause
mast cell activation. Intestinal permeability/leaky gut is believed to cause allergies, weight problems and heart issues. Citations for all statements
at the end of the post.
And at the end of the day, histamine and mast cells = inflammation.
So moderating our intake of high histamine foods and mast cell triggering chemicals and cosmetics is great, but I’ve found that fighting inflammation overall, rather than just focusing on histamine, has yielded the best results.
It might account for why I am once again able to eat most high histamine foods.
The first study I came across proposes a link between intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and food processing, specifically due to lipid glycation – which is what happens when sugars are cooked with proteins or fats. Glycation is that really lovely brown crust you get when barbecuing meat or roasting vegetables with a nice honey marinade. Tasty through they turn out to be, advanced glycation and glycation endoproducts (AGEs) can contribute to the formation of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen. It’s now believed that glycation is a strong contributor to inflammation. Food manufacturers regularly add AGEs to foods as flavour and colour enhancers. Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, peripheral neuropathy, and age related deafness are all linked to AGEs.
That’s not the worst of it, according to the study authors, strongly roasting peanuts “typically increases” their allergenicity because glycation increases white blood cell reactions to food allergens. And this is where it gets crazy – “When compared with raw food antigens, IgE antibodies were elevated four-fold against processed food antigens in 30% of humans.”
But more specifically, AGEs induce mast cell activated inflammation specifically, which in turn causes an increase in AGE formation, which then activates more mast cells. Exposure of intestinal cells to glycation products increases interleukin 6 and 8 formation (from mast cells).
The next that caught my attention found that food emulsifiers, the stuff manufacturers add to make things creamier by properly mixing oil and water based ingredients together, leads to a “dramatic increase in a gut marker of inflammation”. Mice treated with emulsifiers, a class of food additive that includes carrageenan, xanthan gum and lecithin (all of which are found in “natural” products), not only developed gut inflammation, they also showed signs of metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood sugar and insulin resistance). The study showed that these food additives affect gut bacteria in animal studies, with an earlier study revealed that emulsifiers promote the development of inflammatory bowel disease in genetically predisposed mice. Human testing is planned next.
The study authors advise that though emulsifiers are listed on food labels, the additives have varying names, and the best way to avoid eating them is to not eat processed food.
Food additives are also believed to trigger ADHD-like behavior in children lacking the histamine-degrading HNMT enzyme.
And have been shown to trigger histamine induced hives in other studies.
Key points in protecting the intestinal barrier from glycation
- High fat meals have the highest AGE content.
- Broil and frying generate more glycation than roasting, but boiling is best.
- Cooking your meal at low temperatures may help with post-meal leptin concentrations (the stuff that makes you feel full and interacts with insulin).
- Soda and soy sauce (the latter is high histamine anyway) have high AGE content.
- Tea and coffee are high in AGEs (I’ll be making my holy basil tea with cooler water from now on).
Potentially beneficial supplements
Quercetin: has been shown to prevent glycation formation in the body.
Curcumin: the active constituent of turmeric may prevent the intestinal damage from processed foods.
Glutamine: has long been touted as a treatment for “leaky gut”. I advise caution with all amines for those who are histamine sensitive…
Pre-biotics: a small study found that a ten gram pre-biotic inulin/oligofructose supplement may reduce intestinal permeability.
Processed foods (packaged)
Inflammatory foods (wheat, sugar, soy, major allergens)
High histamine foods of little nutritional value
Yoga and meditation to fight inflammation
Higher histamine foods with healing properties (avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes and others)